What do people think of when they hear of a mutiny? Perhaps cinema’s effort to re-enact a mutiny helps us to think of –
the mutiny on HMS Bounty, in April 1789 might come to mind. .
or would it be the Indian Mutiny of 1857. .
or a later mutiny aboard the Russian battleship ‘Potemkin’ in 1905.
Perhaps fiction comes to mind ‘The Cain Mutiny’, and Captain Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart
We sailed from Bushire in Iran for Karachi in Pakistan oblivious of the future.
Our deck and engine-room crews were from Pakistan and mainly from Karachi and the surrounding areas.
So of course they would be expecting the opportunity of going ashore to see their families, once we were alongside and they were off duty. The system was that time ashore would be split between the crew so that we would always have enough crew on-board to man the ship.
The plan was to be in Karachi for twenty-four hours, it was to be a quick ‘turn around’, discharge and load cargo at the same time.
Of course, all the best plans can go astray if someone doesn’t do what is expected. Our agent in Karachi was supposed to arrange for shore side passes for all of the crew so that they could go ashore and see their families – he failed to arrange the passes, and even Pakistanis were required to have a pass to exit the dock or return to their ship. In the 1960’s security was not as ridged as it is now.
When the crew were informed that they were not allowed to go ashore because the passes were not available, they became very upset – and that is putting it mildly.
The Captain & the Chief engineer were told by the deck & engine-room crew, that if they didn’t receive the passes, they would walk off the ship, and she would not be able to sail.
I suppose a mutiny alongside is much more preferable than one in the middle of the ocean, at least the officers would not have to sail an open boat over 3600 nautical miles to get help, which Captain Bligh managed after the HMS Bounty mutiny.
The passes eventually arrived and as they were handed to the deck crew, who had been particularly aggressive, they were told to pack their bags and not to return to the ship, and that they would no longer be considered for a position on any British India Steam Navigation Company vessel.
I don’t know for certain, but I assume that their discharge books would be stamped DR – decline to report – which any future Captain hiring a crew would not entertain anyone with DR in their discharge book. A discharge book is the work record of sailors, and most would have VG or G stamped alongside the ship’s name – Very Good or Good, either is acceptable to allow a sailor to gain a berth and ship out again in a decent ship.
The bottom of the Discharge Book is not clear so I cropped it and highlighted the title.
The above is what the inside of a Discharge Book looks like – ship’s name on the left, date and port of joining and date & port of the end of the voyage, description of voyage (British Coastal or Foreign), and report on ability (VG) & general conduct (VG).
The Pakistani seamen would have received at least DR in ‘conduct’, not sure what the stamp would have been for ability, considering they all left under a cloud of ‘mutiny’.
The engine room crew had not been as belligerent as the deck crew so the Chief Engineer decided to give the engine-room crew a second chance. The Captain would still have to sign all of the engine room’s crew’s discharge books at the end of the voyage.
Of course, we had to sign on a new deck crew before we could sail, this we did, and we managed to sail on time.
Some years earlier, when I was a cadet, I’d stayed at the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi for eighteen days while waiting for a ship.
I’d signed off a ship because she was remaining in the Far East and I was to join a home bound ship, because I was due leave after a year or so out East.
I’d enjoyed my stay in Karachi, and the hotel was the first time I’d experienced a real ‘nightclub’.
I’d never seen a real floor show in a hotel or restaurant, except via the cinema, courtesy of Hollywood. The nightly show guaranteed at least one person in the audience.
Talk about being star struck, I was entranced with the nightly shows of singers or dancers during the evening meal.
Another shot of the hotel – the picture was taken about the time I was staying there.
The city at that time was a mixture of modern and traditional.
In the early 60’s they still get around in a ‘garry’, which was the name of this type of horse drawn vehicle, and of course the tuk tuk.
During the eighteen days waiting for a ship, the two things that I do remember about Karachi in 1964 was visiting the zoo, which I found to be a disappointment, because I saw a three-legged jackal (it wasn’t born that way), and I was not impressed with the poor conditions of the remaining animals.
I also visited a horse racing meet and noted a horse called Solomon Star, and in brackets (formally Woodland Star).
Never having been very good at gambling I thought the last horse to bet on would be an animal linked to me (Woodland) – so I didn’t bet on Solomon Star, but of course it romped home, thus confirming my lack of gambling skill.
The next tine I put money on a horse was in 1982 in Melbourne (Melbourne Cup) and I won $5, the last of the big betters. Haven’t had the urge to lose money since.
Karachi early 1960’s check this small piece of film and note how they used to load certain cargo.
6 thoughts on “Mutiny?”
Mutiny occurs as a result of bad man management, for whatever reason. – Your experience came from the Company’s administration via the Company Agent, and there would only be one outcome with the ship alongside the dock. – ‘Channel Fever’ can be corrected, but I think being alongside in the home town only has the one outcome !
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Morning Mike, I agree that the agent (Company) failed, but the crew were members of the ship’s company and they threatened a senior officer instead of making a request via the Serang (Bosun).
The Captain was as keen as the crew to allow them to go ashore, but the authorities wouldn’t allow this to happen without a pass.
I don’t know about today, but in the 1960’s the Captain was master under God, and I doubt that he would be challenged by anyone.
Communication with head office was limited by radio, which could fail due to the curvature of the Earth – we didn’t have satellites, internet, e-mail, Facebook :- o)
but we did read a lot, and we knew how to entertain ourselves . . . :- o).
Your posts are most entertaining.
I think the captain was right. Experienced crew members who understand the importance of obedience in the sea wouldn’t start a mutiny though. Well, we all have to learn somehow, for our own good and safety.
Thanks for your input – oddly enough they were experienced, and many had worked for BISNC for some years (BISNC = British India Steam Nav Co)
I always found it easier to deal with an Indian crew, rather than a Pakistani crew. Perhaps because the Company originated in Calcutta :- o) It originated in 1856 & most of us considered it a privilege to work for the Company.
Lovely n vivid description
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Thank you :- o)